Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dirt Penny, or, Mr. Congleton Said He Would Buy The Ice Cream Himself

A friend asked me to write a story about John Congleton finding a disgusting penny and buying ice cream with it. So I did. I've made worse decisions.

This is a companion piece of sorts to my latest vlog post, The Crisis of the Omniphobic Horror Writer. I'll have more to say about all that soon, I'm sure.

Little brown circle like a cigarette burn. God knows how filthy, what kind of cancers you’re carrying. I’ve really gone and done it now, gone and picked you up off the ashtray ground. I hope you’re proud of yourself. I can feel your diseases grape-vining inside me now, they’ll wreck my head like the president on your face. Dirty little piece of nothing. Obsolete, that’s what they called you, and if you can’t fight back then how can you prove it’s not what you are?

Goddamn these hands. I let them touch you.

And isn’t it perfect how I need you anyway, to meet the cost of vanilla. Diseased and dirty point-one-oh, you have brought me brain freeze and tooth decay. Thank you very much, pathetic little penny.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

10 Weird Things I Do As A Writer

This is a list of quirks, habits and storytelling devices I tend to exhibit/employ in my writing, all of which can be either extremely interesting or sort of distracting/cumbersome depending on how well I manage to carry them off.

1. Identifying each character by a consistent pronoun and nothing else. See I Am He You Are He You Are Me, where "I," "you" and "he" are three specific people, none of whom have actual names.

2. Using tense shifts to denote alternating timelines/perspectives/atmospheres.

3. Debasing cliched lines for my own purposes. Examples: "this is the start of a beautiful et cetera", "in all the gin joints of all my relationships in all the world", "they call us Mad As Hell, and don't you sometimes want to threaten not to take it anymore".

4. Crafting a whole narrative universe around nameless figures who straddle the line between distinct characters and abstract archetypes. They always come in pairs, and are identified by symbolic titles rather than names. Examples include: Spider and Fly, Snake and Flightless Bird, Pea and Pomegranate Seed, Carrion and Crow. These universes are also often characterized by a complete lack of linear continuity.

5. Gradual deterioration of grammar/syntax over time. Usually corresponds to downward spiral of narrator's sanity.

6. Direct address, wherein the narrator and the reader become locked into an intimate and often destructive relationship. See also: incredibly unreliable narrators.

7. Similarly: the narrator is possibly everyone. Or rather, I have become obsessed with the solitary mindset, and also with multiple personalities as a storytelling device. More and more I find myself introducing the ambiguous possibility that the narrator is imagining all events and all other characters, only to never confirm or deny it ever.

8. By the same token: ambiguous devices/developments so ambiguous that even I, the authorial god figure, do not actually know for certain know what is going on.

9. Increasingly obscure tangents and references.

10. Eschewing actual genres to the point of complete incoherence, instead using random phrases to separate different categories of story. Examples: "Mad As Hell", "Escapist Variations", "chaotic fragments".

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I Am He You Are He You Are Me

This was written for a friend, who prompted me with the words "boys in lipstick, a threesome, superstitions, albino crows, bootblacking" and with the most excellent pick-up line ever courtesy of e e cummings:

listen: there's a hell
of a good universe next door; let's go

I don't know how well I answered the prompt, but I ended up with something more than a little strange. I feel like it's teetering on the precipice of being something bigger and less disjointed, but I think it's best to let it sit. I didn't have a great deal of control over this narrator.

So here it is, as is: a chaotic fragment.

“Listen,” he said. “Listen.”

You weren’t listening.

“The fuck is an albino crow?” you persisted.

What a pair: the pea and the pomegranate seed. You’re so natural, so green behind the ears (if that is the saying I want), a little hint of overturned earth. You came right off the farm and you’d break a man’s nose for anything less than a full-hearted embrace of your lack of college education and your heathen temper. I like you. I’ve always liked you. You never learned but you’re always learning. I knew we were meant to be before you even threw your first punch.

The pomegranate, now; he’s something else. You’re old and young and he’s young and old, if you know what I mean. You’re a fixture, a reliable structure, been here since the dawn of time, where time is my willingness to talk about any of this. Who’s this guy? He comes in here with his tall leather boots and his pierced ears and piercing gaze, mouth full of bright red lipstick just itching to leave a bloody imprint on a napkin, or your cheek. He’s wild like the center of a storm, every muscle relaxed, coiled. He’s a predator. I had to have him. I’m not one for petty superstitions but this is twice in one lifetime, love at first sight, and doesn’t that have to mean something? I love you, aggressive, thoughtful, ignorant you, and I want him, I need him, I have to be his. He won me the moment he stepped into that place. Where were we again? Oh yeah.

“Listen,” he said.

“You listen,” you retort. “You said you worked for Albino Crow. And I’m asking, what the fuck’s an albino crow? I mean ain’t that just a dove? Cause it sounds like it’d just be a dove.”

And he smiled at you, a calm, tiger smile. “A crow is a crow, and not a dove at all,” he said. “That’d be like saying every white man is the same white man.”

“No it ain’t, it ain’t that at all.”

“In any case, the Albino Crow I’m talking about is just a record label.” He leaned forward over the table. “You like music?”

“I like music, everyone likes music,” you said, and you looked at me, maybe for help, though you’d be damned to hell and uncertain torment before you’d admit it. “You know who the fuck this is?”

I know I want to be a part of his narrative, if that’s what you mean (it isn’t).

“Listen,” he said again. “There’s a hell—”

“What kind of music?” you wanted to know.

“—of a good universe next door,” he continued. He smiled. I wanted those lips. I wanted those teeth. “Let’s go.”

The two of you are made for each other. You might not realize it yet (he, of course, realized it right away), but this is the start of a beautiful et cetera. There’s a part of you that knows, or senses, or at any rate won’t turn down an opportunity, and it’s the part of you that moves, gets up, and the rest of your body follows. You throw me a look that says “You’d better be coming.” You don’t want to be left alone with the Devil, the madman, the albino crow. You’ll want it soon enough. I just pray you’ll take me with you.

The hell of a good universe is exactly the paradox it sounds like. Everything is bright. Everything is faded. It doesn’t matter. It does.

It was an enclosure of open space. Speciously spacious. Spuriously so. If I’ve got to describe it, then that’s how. Bookshelves of buildings. Staircases leading nowhere, or maybe everywhere. Towers of stairs. Down we went, down and down, of course down. Mephisto and his pair of Fausts. Maybe one of us is Gretchen. I’ll be Gretchen. I don’t mind. Down to the valley. Into the street.

Losing grip on reality is something we’ve become very good at, you and I. It comes from the unholy marriage of your casual disregard for it all and the slow tick tick tick of the bomb of my brain. I don’t have time for it, I mean. It’s such a waste of energy, believing in the world, when there are beautiful boys in lipstick and tall, leather boots. We said so many things during that walk without speaking a single word. I felt you simmering, settling, felt him drawing you in. You know what I see in him now. I think you’re ready. What’s more, I think he waits until you’re ready.

And then, oh: a door.

“Here,” he said. And I saw the crow, I’m sure it was a crow even though it looked quite like a dove, white-feathered and red-eyed. There was this mad moment where I was certain it was him, the crow I mean. In the land of living metaphor the contradiction is king.

Look at us: what an odd contraption. He’s already done the impossible, made it through the patchwork of your defenses and the tangle of your clothes, and my attention’s elsewhere. There is something perversely beautiful, you know, about watching the two of you. It’s more than I can bear. I have to look away. I focus on the boots. I’ll be Gretchen, I’ll be the shoeshine boy. I don’t care. I don’t care.

Don’t forget me.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Killing Days with Death

Haven't written in a little while. Fell a bit behind. No matter; I intend to catch up.

Today was an interesting one. I slept past noon for no real reason, which put me in the troublesome position of having to struggle for a good mood. Ever have one of those mornings, where you overslept or you just feel groggy, and you can sense the desire to just do nothing, like you've already failed, already lost the unspoken battle against the days, the challenge to get up and make something. That turned from a question into a statement, but I guess it was rhetorical either way.

Anyway, I came dangerously close to just giving up right then and there, feeling miserable about how late I'd slept. That outcome was averted by a fortuitous twitter exchange with blogmaster Zac Little, who demanded I get up and do something so as not to waste all the precious time I have by being a member of the unemployed. I decided, in a sudden burst of energy and willpower, that I was going to make a video; not just any video, but my very first "vlog" post. I only recently made myself a youtube account for this very purpose. Vlogging is not the sort of thing I envisioned doing a few years ago, but what can I say? I'm fighting boredom and inactivity with all my might, and vlogging is comparatively easy. So here I am.

In the video, which is called Killing Days with Death, I reiterate my personal definitions of Everyday Panic and quote from Hermann Hesse's Steppenwolf, both of which I also did here, weeks ago. I also discuss excerpts of Rainer Maria Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet, as well as my Tarot card of the day:

This is Death. As I explain in the video, Death is deceptively frightening: in truth, it is a mostly positive card, referring to change and rebirth. The Archeon booklet includes "death of the ego" as one of the card's meanings. It is a card that I associate strongly with this project. I drew it as my daily card before starting this blog, and found it to be a challenge of sorts, to see if I could make a new go of things, essentially. Death of the ego meant death of my former self, I suppose. It was a powerful, enlivening message, and along with the Letters to a Young Poet, which I had also been reading at the time, it helped push me into this whole project.

Drawing it again today, I feel like it represents progress. In some ways, this is the completion of a first step. I've made the blog, the tumblr, and now I've started the vlog as well. And it brings me back to Rilke, and back to that line from Steppewolf: "The day had gone by just as days go by. I had killed it in accordance with my primitive and retiring way of life." Today, I can make the joke I didn't even think of during the making of the video. Today, I killed my day with Death.

Here's the video itself -- nearly eleven minutes of rambling. I expect they shall get shorter, or at least more entertaining.

Something I'd have liked to go into more detail about was that last line of Rilke's, "And be glad and confident." I remember distinctly that read that letter, the sixth letter, that very same day I drew Death the first time, and I came to associate the card's symbolism with that line. In keeping with Rilke's style, it is a simple but elegant and gently put piece of advice: to appreciate life and to hope for the best, essentially. I want to be glad and confident. I want to be glad and confident every day. It doesn't happen, but I have these little tools... a network of images and objects and ideas... that all relate back to it, and help me to remember, and to stay grounded.

I have always been very good at relating one thing to another, often in ways that are so quick and abstract it becomes impossible for anyone else to keep up. I can't begin to explain the mental connections I've made tying Rilke to Death to Steppenwolf and back, and tying to other people and other things as well. But I can try to tease some sense out of it. I can try.

Enough thoughts. Tomorrow I shall bring you a story. If not tomorrow, then soon.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Chariot

Today's Tarot card: The Chariot. From Archeon.

This card came up reversed. The upright meaning is given here as "determination, triumph over obstacles, willpower, self-control, controlling one's own destiny." The reversed meaning is "pressure, lack of self-discipline, no clear focus, scattered energies, loss of direction."

I have been engaged in a struggle between these two states of mind for a few days now. This blog project is about regaining focus, encouraging myself to write habitually and coping with emotional duress. Sometimes it feels like it's working, and sometimes I feel like I'm falling behind. So this is a very suitable card for the day. I used to be upset when I drew reversals, which usually have more negative meanings than their upright counterparts. My wise and wonderful girlfriend, who exposed me to Tarot in the first place, taught me a better way of looking at reversals, which is that it might be an encouragement to change things around, to fix whatever's broken. I have also noticed that I tend to look at a card's "full" meaning a lot more when it comes up reversed -- that is, I take both the upright and the reversed meaning into account. And they are both important! For every good mood and accomplishment, there's a drawback or a failing hiding in the woodwork. And vice versa.

Today I woke up very late, having stayed up to an ungodly hour last night trying unsuccessfully to finish a piece of writing. I had bizarre and often unpleasant dreams, the confusing kind that blended a little too much with reality. The day is dark, cold and wet. It was a great setup to have a lousy and otherwise unproductive day. I think the relevance of getting this card today is to show that I am teetering on that precipice, in danger of tumbling into a dark place, but I still have time to rein myself in. It's late to be "starting" anything today... the sun hasn't really shown itself, but it's still "going down." Sometimes darkness and bad weather deter the hell out of me. Today I'm not going to let that happen. I'm going to put a good effort forth and get some things written, and some things read.

"Scattered energies" could also refer to how I am balancing a lot of projects now. I have started reacting to my continued unemployment by piling more and more projects on myself, either trying to ensure I stay busy or actively trying to overwhelm myself (I can be terribly cruel to myself when the mood is right... or wrong). Maybe having scattered focus isn't a bad thing though. Maybe I can little important pieces done on a lot of different things at once. That's what I would hope for a day like today.

It's an old and well-repeated sentiment, but that only means it's easy to forget how true it is: the best attempt is all we can ever do.

I'll be back, maybe with something less hippy-dippy-introspective, later on.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Sometimes you want everyone to just be quiet. This world is so full of voices, nothing but voices and words and viewpoints, and none of them will ever be exactly the same. We search and we search for someone to be our equal, the long-sought doppelganger, knowing deep in our hearts this person does not exist. Why is that want so natural, when there is no existent salve? Why are we wired to hunger for something that will never be?

Sometimes the noise swells up and becomes far too much to bear. There are so many ways to speak against you, and each one has its own particular sting. Even the voices with whom you feel kinship can become too loud, and listening is too difficult, and answering too futile. When everyone is talking, the words are meaningless, and why talk at all? When everyone is talking, the silent man is the invisible king. That's what humanity is. That's what loneliness means.

With all this talking, it is difficult to hear what anyone is saying. If everyone could just be quiet, please. Just for a moment.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

prom night

Woebegone and fire-started,
a lonely boy in a tuxedo jacket
        feet tucked under the edge of the bed
(where the monsters used to live.)
Trousers dashed across the rocks
of his lighthouse closet
         where the monsters kept him company for years.
The door is open, inviting
He is always welcome back
if he needs a place to stay.
Sad little metaphor.

Turns on channel sixty and watches Sunset Boulevard
for the fifteenth time this week
starting in the middle, right before William Holden kisses the girl.
           Eighteen year old Norma watches his future self give up everything she has
for one last jaunt on the downward spiral staircase
and wonders about buying a gun.
Stupid thing to think of. Sad little life.

The phone is ringing with unanswered questions
His heart is ringing with unwashed vocabulary
bristling for a place to thrive
on the half-corrupted paper. Burnt out pen
  lies amidst the lies
  that seemed like truths only moments ago.
A letter he won’t bother sending
to the boy on the other end of the phone
who has better things to do.

Let the flower wilt
You have your whole life ahead of you
and years of practice still to come.


I wrote this over a year ago, and just revised it today. I was really, really thrilled with it a year ago, and now my love for it has waned a little. I think the metaphors are a little bewildering and a little muddled. But there are things I still like about it, so here it is.

This is an erotic story about two men. Nothing explicit, but not exactly tame either.

Here we are, and who are you?

I saw you from across the room, like they do in movies, only the room didn’t stop, I had to excuse myself from the one-sided conversation with the heiress who’d held me captive with her senseless rambling drivel, I fear I was quite rude you know, only now does that occur to me, and what a time to realize. Too late now, too late then as I made my silent way across the room, leaving my half-finished drink on the tray of a passing waiter for fear that I would need both my hands free, and I wonder at the back of my mind just when it is you first noticed me. I’d never seen you before, I could never forget a face like yours, nor the curve of your back, nor the sharp cut of your jaw touched with yesterday’s five o’clock shadow, and perhaps you’re a guest or perhaps you’re one of the many uninvited who drop in with the almighty influence of affluence, but I don’t care about that, not right now. Champagne always hits me fast and I’ve had three and a half glasses full and nothing to eat since two o’clock this afternoon, and has anyone told you that the darkness of your hair and your eyes gives you this unnatural severity, I felt like I was being looked dead in the face by the entire month of October, only that isn’t right, I don’t know what I’m saying. You’re a November if you’re anything.

And here we are in this elevator, this elevator tainted with sordid three-minute affairs, people just like you and me except I am sure that you are not like them at all; that might be a shallow observation but as my hands grip the rail that digs inconveniently into me and my neck stretches up until my head hits the perversely mirrored wall I find myself unable to care, unable to think. Your lips are perfect, has anyone ever told you?

I don’t know what it was about you, perhaps I shall never know, perhaps this is one of those instances of which we shall never speak, perhaps, even, we shall not see each other again. I know that as I approached you the room seemed to vanish even though it didn’t, and I know you felt it too as you gave me your little smile, the upturned edges of those lips I wanted all over my body, I barely said two words to you, something vague and floundering like “I wonder if I might—” and how is it that you knew so perfectly exactly what I meant, that you should take me subtly by the wrist and lead me away from that mundane reality, that you should be such a grand escape artist in your own perfect right.

We made it as far as this elevator and I whispered “I can’t remember what floor I’m on and I don’t know that I can wait,” and you told me not to worry, chose a number that was a long ways off, dropped to your knees and deftly took me with you. Here we are, my fingers in your hair gently pressing you closer. You accept my impatience with absolute calm, and perhaps you are even smiling as you shatter my tightly knit resolve; this I cannot know.

Why have I broken every rule to do this now, here, with you, you whom I have never seen but who destroyed me utterly in that instant from across the room?

Who are you?

The bell shoots me straight through the heart as the doors open, and like nothing’s happened you’re up and resetting my clothes like you do it every day, and you take me around the waist and guide me out into the elegant spread of a hallway, to hell with whoever might be there, might be watching us, I can see only your shoes and this hideous carpet, the quick punches of your feet against these flattened colors which mock your whole autumnal nature, muddied and dulled with time and the feet of a thousand people just like us.

Not like us.

Men like me are a dime a dozen and I am sure there are a million of them. I am no one, but there is no one like you, no one on this earth, I become convinced of this as I struggle to lift my head and study the sliver of your face which is so fixed on the door to which you have us careening, and I wonder just how drunk I am.

The door is opened and closed again with us on the other side, and you hold me there against it and this time you are not quick, you are not efficient, your mouth wanders lazily up the path of my throat seeking out something intangible like a moan or a sigh, and I will give you all of it, only do not stop. Your hands tighten around my arms and it’s as though you know me, know my every unspoken desire, the fluttering secrets that beat within the folds of my heart. Your hands slip down to my wrists, dragging my arms down behind me, pulling me back into a small arc, gaining purchase at the base of my throat. I am gasping, defenseless. November I am yours.

How is it that I am here on this bed, with this sunlight playing against your features? How is it that I can remember every inexpressible detail of the night without being able to linger on a single one, like a dream that is impossible to explain even as you grasp and try to hold it still. I am hung-over and for several seconds it is the happiest hangover of my life.

“And you would be?” I say, drifting, lost at sea in these twisted bed sheets.

You smile and your fingers brush along my face. Are your hair and your eyes as dark as I remember them, or am I dreaming still?

“You’re not what I expected,” you say, and the wide-awake depth of your voice does not disappoint me, how could it, when it is so different here in the morning light and yet it is unavoidably the same voice that told me so gently to be quiet, to keep still, to give in, to love you for exactly one hour and thirty-three minutes.

I turn and stretch, working my body in and out of half-remembered positions. “Am I not?” I say. “I suppose I’m happy to hear that.”

You tilt your head and look at me with a curious smile, a smile that I want to see for the rest of my life.

Oh, November, what fool gave you a day less for us to share? Thirty is not enough, my dear beautiful. Stay with me always, you who has such power within seconds, who commands my every bodily sensation from across a room crowded with the empty-headed and the illustrious. Oh stay with me, stay.

Your fingers curl around me and spread across my back, to show me that you’ve heard.

“Do you want to go?” you ask, I can’t imagine why.

“No, no, no,” I say quietly. “No, no, no, no, no.”

You smile again. “What do you want?”

I draw myself closer to you, because to answer is to become tiresome.

You press your lips into the hollow of my temple, and you ask it again. “What do you want?”

To know everything about you. To know nothing. I do not answer because I don’t know how. I fear that I have fallen in love with you, and the fading perceptions of last night, the fading champagne, the everything and the all of it fading into the dreadfully real sensations of the bed sheets and the light and the ache in my head and my stomach, it leaves me flustered and embarrassed at the idea of it, at having become so lost in a contestable emotion at the very first sight of you. I am a storybook character, a stereotype risen from a weakly versed poem, and here you are, real and perfect and smiling, and me with the great and terrible audacity at thinking I know a thing about you. How dare I? Who gave me permission to speak?

Oh November, enfold me once in your cold, dry embrace, the brown of the dead and dying cutting stark shapes against the too, too pale sky. November do not leave me to the afterimage of white that will cover and drown me for months to come, after which it will be too late. November, we have mere moments to speak and to finish, moments before I have lost you to the seasonal funeral, the end before the endless rebirth. November, keep.

You rise and I watch you as you move about this room, which is the same as mine, might as well be mine, ought to be mine. The wallpaper and the paintings and the furniture all the same, all the trappings identical, who is to say your room is not mine, or that I am not some small and inadequate reflection of you? I watch you, and I am convinced you are not as real as I am, you are not as brittle. You are an abstract and an idea, a metaphor I have created for that which I am lacking. No, no! What am I saying? To be so conceited as to think I could create something such as you—no, no. Come back, come back to me, these thoughts are tedious and this bed is cold without you in it.

“I have to work,” you say, dressing yourself, and I am overcome with the strange notion of watching a film strip in reverse as all the tattered bits and pieces that make up your external wrappings seem to fly unnaturally back into place, covering the slim perfection that is you.

“Don’t go,” I murmur from my prison amidst the remnants of our dirty work.

You look at me, I am taken by your shape, more solid than me, greater than me. The days are slipping by too fast for me to know what to do but I must keep you here.

“You really aren’t what I expected at all,” you say, hands frozen in their grim places, lifting your shirt back into its grotesque position as a barrier between my fingers and your skin.

“I try not to be what people expect,” I say. “I’m not sure what it was you were expecting.”

“Drunk rich boy,” you say with a brutal shrug. You smile the whole remark away. “Do you want me to stay?”

Answering you is the final admission. I cannot bring myself to speak without your prompts, and this is as close as I can get.

“Yes,” I say. It is a beautiful word, yes. No one knows that. James Joyce knows that. You know it.

There is a breath of hesitation, and I am suspended on wire, but you catch me before I fall. “All right,” you say. You right yourself, replacing unnecessary fabrics in their rightful tangled heaps, and you slide back in next to me.

People are frightened to make this surrender, to accept this fortune. People come in from the cold and drown themselves in artificial light and warmth, and the assurance that they have made the right choice. We know better, you and I. We will stay here as long as it takes for one of us to know what this means, and I still don’t know who you are. There isn’t much time. I want to speak, to ask you, tell you. Sometime we shall ruin it all and dash it against the rocks of questions and answers and our too-solid identities. Sometime before the thirtieth day I shall have to break this beloved silence. Soon, soon, soon.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The Story of the Snake & the Flightless Bird

God, sometimes don’t you ever want to open up your top floor window and stick your head out and scream? I’d help you onto the balcony, and we’d shatter your neighbor’s flower pots so she’ll think twice about calling the cops on us during our tasteful misadventures of the later night. We’ll smoke our regretted cigarettes and let the ashes drop down to the sidewalk, that vertiginous drop that neither of us are brave or cowardly enough to take. Would you stand in the middle of the road with nothing but a late-80s boombox and dance to your mix tapes from the days of yore? Would you wax schizophrenic about the shortening of the days and rattle like a snake about the things we should be doing and the places we should be, instead of this & here & now? They call us Lost, they call us Y, they call us Mad As Hell, and don’t you sometimes want to threaten not to take it anymore, because why should you, when all that’s left of your hopes and dreams and all your wild-eyed worldly ambitions is an unmentionable degree and a box full of books half-read and dog-eared by the 2am light of library lamps? You would never settle for second best; you will be satisfied only when they speak your name with reverence and sometimes controversy, and they know it was you, you did this, left your mark, you made it, you won, and maybe not even then. Come with me to the balcony, to the precarious window ledge, where we’ll look over the rotting city like a pair of tattered sultans, and let the sour wind carry you somewhere else, away from the godforsaken years of the misbegotten twentysomething, into the future where we won’t care, where the ambition will be atrophied by wisdom and responsibility and weary practicality. Nothing will ever be this important again, my dear, and we’re wasting it all on rotten luck and blank walls and under financed wanderlust. Curl around me like you do, and hold on tight, and we’ll let them hear us howl, let them shudder at our anger, and they’ll notice, and they’ll know. I’d take you anywhere, my love, if I only had wings.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

But Enough About That

Onto to greener pastures, etc.

My goal with this blog is to develop better writing habits, and to start writing every day, whether it be fiction or personal ramblings, for a project or just for me.

In addition to this blog, which is where I shall put the writings, I've also got a tumblr for other forms of media and the kinds of thing you find on tumblr, and a twitter for... whatever twitter is for. And I will be making a youtube channel, which will maybe be the greatest adventure of all. So far that process has mostly taught me that youtube is really incredibly irritating. But whatever. All these accounts are connected but slightly different. This is a new thing for me, having a unified internet identity. We shall see where that takes me.

This morning I did a one-card Tarot reading. Tarot is another of those things I mean to do every day and often neglect to do. But I keep trying. I'm not a super spiritual person, but I enjoy finding meaning in the random symbolism of the collective consciousness, by which I just mean... by ascribing meaning to these cards, we derive messages from them, and that is significant all by itself, whether you strictly "believe" in Tarot or not. And that is the only time I am going to defend Tarot.

Today's card was "The Lovers," which in this deck (Archeon) carries a positive message of something new -- relationships, beginnings, projects.

Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let's Begin With A Little Explanation

"Everyday Panic" is a phrase I started using to describe my general state of being early in November 2011. Weighed down by the depression that typically accompanies a long period of unemployment and creative stagnation, I struggled to channel all that sadness and stress into writing, with limited success. The first thing I wrote within that goal was a deeply personal piece which, true to form, turned out pretty depressing. I am including an abridged, edited version of it, to better explain what I mean when I say "everyday panic."

[DISCLAIMER: This is kind of heavy and, I expect, not terribly fun to read. But I think it's important that I say it now and get it out there. I do not intend for this blog to be All About Depression. It's best to think of this as a little history.]

You know that book that opens with the line about killing the day in accordance with routine? Maybe not. It’s Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf, and the translation goes “The day had gone by just as days go by. I had killed it in accordance with my primitive and retiring way of life.” It's an amazing way of putting something. Leave it to a German. It’s such a visceral idea: to kill the day with monotony. I guess I could take comfort in the fact that Hermann Hesse also knew how this feels, but at the same time, Hesse will be remembered forever. I’m still in this state of post-graduate uncertainty, floundering with the rest of my generation, unemployed and unsure. Schrรถdinger’s Cat.

My days are difficult, and they are difficult in the way that Hesse describes. They are burdened by the increasing length of time it’s been since any one of them was marked by anything significant, much like those signs with the adjustable numbers, “no workplace accidents in ___ days.” Of course with those, a bigger number is preferable. With me a big number represents the ever-widening gap between the despair of now and idealism of then. I’m not in college anymore; there is nothing separating me from the reality that I don't really know what I'm doing with my life. And with nothing to distract me, there is nothing to do but think, fixedly, about that. Self-awareness is the bane of my existence. I am so good at figuring myself out that I can beat almost every therapist I’ve had to the punch. I know how to pinpoint the various sources of my grief, and there is nothing extraordinary about any of it. I am an ordinary person who suffers from ordinary post-college malaise, ordinary unemployment and ordinary writer's block. Ordinary depression, ordinary anxiety, ordinary insecurity. As anyone who suffers from these things can attest, knowing that you're not alone doesn't really make you feel better. The misery is still there, lurking. And if you're anything like me, it plants itself in the powder keg of unstable emotions until something small sets it off—going the wrong way in traffic, running a red light, almost getting into a car accident. I don’t know why panic sets in so often in the car, but the car is a terrible place to lose one’s shit. Every day I must treat myself with great delicacy and care, just to avoid falling back down into that dark hole.

The only cure for a panic attack is to get over it.

Everyday panic isn't exactly what it sounds like. It isn't panicking every day. It's a lot quieter. It's the voice in the back of your head that says "you're happy now, but it's not going to last," or "what exactly do you think you're doing?" To suffer everyday panic is to be forever on the edge of panic, tamping it down by succumbing to a dull, relentless existence. It's panicking at your own mundane routine. Becoming painfully aware of your own loss of inertia. It's sort of hard to explain, I guess, in a way that makes sense outside my head. But I am sure there are many people who know exactly what I’m talking about.

(Something I'd like to add now, which didn't occur to me at the time of writing that, is that "everyday panic" doesn't have to be negative. It can also mean staying active, making an effort to stir things up on a daily basis. The panic doesn't have to be mine; it can belong to my characters. And that's a positive thing for me. That's productivity.)

When I originally wrote that I had no intentions of showing it to anyone. But over the past several years, I've started noticing more and more how afraid I am to show people anything. Part of it is a fear of rejection and part of it is my own pathological need to be perfect, which gets me into this space where I have to edit the shit out of everything before I can show it to the world. On the one hand, my insanely high standards mean I tend to produce pretty decent work. On the other hand, no one ever sees it.

So, from out of the void I have created this blog. I don't really know what I'm going to put in it. I don't know if there will be any cohesion to it. But I haven't got anything better to do. So I am going to indulge my panic, internet. And I am going to share it with you.

Onward and upward, as they say.